Nvidia has launched the market’s most powerful ARM processor in the form of the quad-core Tegra 3. The graphics card manufacturer has now revealed that it has built the first ARM-based hybrid supercomputer, by pairing Tegra 3 with its own GeForce GPUs.
Nvidia’s supercomputer doesn’t take aim for the Top500 list, but with 256 quad-core Tegra 3 processors and 256 GeForce 520MX graphics circuits with 1TB DDR3 memory it can do 38 teraflops. The most impressive is that each Watt consumes equals about 7.5 gigaflops.
Barcelona Supercomputing Center that is building the system together with Nvidia has revealed that its EU Mont-Blanc project has created a supercomputer that can reach exaflops performance, while consuming 15-30 times less energy than current supercomputers. Already in 2014 the Mont-Blanc architecture is expected to use ARM processors for 4 to 10 times more energy efficient solutions.
BCS also has plans to use other ARM-based solutions from e.g. ST-Ericsson, Texas Instruments and Marvell. It actually mentions ARM’s graphics circuit Mali-T604 in its plans, but currently it is Nvidia that is at the top of the list.
Nvidia’s SECO platform will house a Tegra 3 SoC and a GeForce 520MX GPU on each board. With eight cards in a 1U rack the supercomputer cluster will scale well. The lack of processor circuits in the lineup has been one of Nvidia’s greatest weaknesses, but there is no doubt the work with the ARM architecture is starting to bear fruit.
Tegra 3 has already found its way into retail products, while Nvidia has also found a way into the more profitable server market with Tegra 3. There the graphics circuits in GeForce/Tesla and Quadro families have already had great success.